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Understanding and Managing Stress

No one is immune to the effects of stress, a term which has become ubiquitous in today’s culture. However, it is important to know that not all stress is bad. It is a daily part of life and is the “nonspecific response of the body to any demand” according to Hans Selye, the Hungarian Canadian endocrinologist, who as a pioneer in stress research, began using the word “stress” in its current form.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” Hans Selye

The body has three automatic reactions to “demands”: alarm, activation, and recovery. Ideally, the alarm and activation phases are followed by a lengthy recovery phase. However, in modern society, and due to individual choices, many people are regularly “stressed out” and are not getting enough rest to adequately recover for the next challenge.

“Anything – pleasant or unpleasant – that arouses your adrenaline system and mobilizes your body for ‘fight or flight,’ then doesn’t let up and allow time for recovery can predispose you to stress disease. Your body simply adapts to living in a constant state of emergency – and you feel no discomfort until damaging results occur”, writes psychologist Dr. Archibald Hart in his book Adrenaline and Stress.

Stress will affect your body, behavior, and your mood, with ongoing stress having potentially damaging consequences. It is important to enlist the help of a qualified medical professional if one is experiencing stress-related symptoms.

Stress Management for Better Health

The following five stress management techniques can people manage or even eliminate unnecessary stress (additional information at It may also be helpful to meet with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychotherapist, to learn and implement these strategies in one’s life.

Avoid unnecessary stress: Learn how to say “no”, avoid people who stress you out, take control of your environment, avoid hot-button topics, and pare down your to-do list.

Alter the situation: Express your feelings instead of bottling them up, be willing to compromise, be more assertive, and manage your time better.

Accept the things you cannot change: Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, look for positive aspects of situations, share your feelings, and learn to forgive.

Adapt to the stressor: Reframe problems, look at the big picture, adjust your standards/expectations, and focus on the positive.

Adopt a balanced healthy lifestyle: Focus on all aspects of your life, including physical, mental, social, spiritual, financial, work/school, and family spheres.


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